Synopsis: Cold Ghost

Joel was just a regular ol’ park ranger, minding his own business when Yukihiro burst through a window and into his life. Now, he’s trapped in a web of deceit and danger that goes beyond ‘hilarious misunderstanding’ and driven straight to ‘mortal peril’. Will Joel survive the adventure? Will Yukihiro ever explain what it’s all about? Or will everyone just be eaten alive by bears?

Previous Chapter: Chapter 2: fake star

Index

Next Chapter: Chapter 4: When Tomorrow Comes

Chapter 3: Don’t Dream It’s Over

Morning light slipped through the gap between two heavy curtains. Thus sun had only just risen a short while ago, so while it was building up to be a warm Canadian summer’s day, it wasn’t too sticky yet.

Coming around slowly, Joel rubbed the sleep dust from his eyes with the heel of his palm and realised that it wasn’t his bedroom that he was sleeping in, and that he was dressed not in pyjamas, but in a t-shirt and his boxer shorts. He hadn’t gotten changed before going to bed then.

“You awake yet in there?” a voice called.

It wasn’t from inside the room; looking around the sparse bedroom, Joel could see that he was currently alone. It was pretty basic stuff: a fairly small double bedroom, with a slim wooden wardrobe and low, squat bedside cabinet. On top of the bedside cabinet, there was a metal lamp, a half-filled glass of water and digital clock that read 06:34 in bright green numbers. No photo frames, no certificates, not even a poster – there was nothing decorative in the room.

“Uh, yeah… I’m awake.”

“Good, good, I would have hated to have had to cut and run on you. I got a call twenty minutes ago, and I need to go into the office early. You must have gone over your limit, because you slept right through it. I tried to wake you after I took the damn call, but you were out cold then too.”

So now last night started to come back to him a little bit. Joel knew where he was and who was speaking to him, but he still felt disorientated and a large, dull headache coming on in the back of his skull. His hand moved to rub at the base of his head.

“Sorry…”

“No need to apologise, you needed to blow off some steam last night… the guys were very impressed,” the voice replied, a slightly smug tone creeping in there. Joel couldn’t be sure though, as he sensed his hangover might be screwing his perception of reality.

In the bedroom door way, stood a man, dressed in a shirt and suit trousers, tying a dark blue tie around his neck and grinning at Joel. He was of an above average height, but not as tall as Joel. He had short light brown hair, hazel eyes and fairly broad shoulders. There were dark circles under those eyes though, and he had never looked to be able to relax completely to Joel, or at least in the few months that he had gotten to know Detective Nathan Hart.

Ah-ha, now Joel remembered. Or at least, he sort of remembered what had happened last night now. They had gone out for a night on the town in Toronto, casual dinner and drinks, nothing too formal. Of course, having gone for the drinks, the night had been hijacked by a couple of Nathan’s colleagues and an old college classmate of Joel’s and the whole damn night had become something of a blur for Joel once they had hit the cabaret joint.

Maybe Nathan would be kind enough to enlighten him on what had happened last night.

“Impressed you say? You’re too kind Officer,” Joel said, smiling weakly.

“And you’re too modest Warden, far too modest. You know, after you led that swing band into an ABBA medley…”

A strangled “SAY WHAT” escaped Joel’s lips. Oh dear, oh lordy, oh fiddle sticks, Joel had been ABBA-medley-complete-stereotype level of drunk? They had only been dating for a while, and that was his dignity down the damn tubes already. And of course it had to be in front of Nathan’s colleagues as well. He wasn’t so worried about the ex-classmate, as Joel was pretty sure he’d either had to hold his head over the toilet after an all night party, or help him hide from an overzealous RA back in the day.

“What, you never been swing-band-ABBA-medley drunk before, Warden? Cos I’d have said that you knew exactly what you were doing….”

Joel had buried back beneath the covers, hiding his bright red face underneath a pillow, as if it would block out the embarrassment. He hadn’t felt this coy since he’d been an awkward teenager.

“You’re making it up.”

“Come on now, would I make up a thing like that? Come on out of those covers; give me something to remember you by. I might not get back until late tonight, and I’ll be awful lonely all day….”

Then there was a loud thudding at the door, like a SWAT team were about to burst in.

“JOEL! JOEL! JOOOOOOOOOEL! ARE YOU AWAKE YET?”

Just fantastic – he was back in his own room at his parents’ house. It was still dark outside, apart from eerie lights reflecting street lamps against snow.

‘Well, for fuck’s sake, I am now…’ Joel thought to himself groggily, rolling onto his stomach and stuffing his head further between two pillows.

“MAYBE.”

“OKAY. BECAUSE I NEED TO GO INTO TOWN CHRISTMAS SHOPPING, SO DO YOU NEED TO GO INTO TOWN CHRISTMAS SHOPPING? I NEED TO.”

Joel rolled onto his back, and clapped his hands to his face. [No new paragraph]‘I’m going to kill Mikey. I swear, I’m going to kill him and mount his head on the wall beside Grandpa Moss’ deer.’

“MICHAEL, I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE MY BROTHER. BUT WHAT TIME IS IT?”

“JESUS, IT’S ONLY TWENTY TO SEVEN, WHY ARE YOU SO GRUMPY?”

Only twenty to seven? It was only twenty to seven? He’d driven through snow and sleet for several hours last night, all in order to get back to warmth and slumber near the family hearth. What the hell did his brother think he was playing at? At precisely twenty minutes to the seventh hour in the bloody morning?

He’d taken the holiday, thinking that at least he wouldn’t have to keep to his summer work hours.

“CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AT SIX FORTY?”

“SO I DRANK A LOT OF COFFEE LAST NIGHT, WHAT’S YOUR POINT CALLER? SO ARE WE DOING THIS CHRISTMAS SHOPPING THING OR NOT? BECAUSE I NEED TO GO AND DO SOME CHRISTMAS SHOPPING, DUDE.”

Joel could weep. Mikey really wasn’t the brightest bulb in the setting sometimes, but this was just too much. All things considered, it sounded like he wasn’t going to be put off either. It might be that he wanted to talk about to Joel about something. Like the college thing that he had obviously been fencing around last night…. It was probably the college thing which Joel only found really obvious now and should have found really obvious last night. Oh well, he wouldn’t die today then.

“Okay, okay… GIMME HALF AN HOUR OR SOMETHING. I NEED TO GET WASHED AND DRESSED AND HAVE BREAKFAST, OKAY? WE’LL DO CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AFTER THAT.”

“OKAY SURE THING. I’M GONNA GO AND HAVE MORE CEREAL THEN.”

“YOU DO THAT. LATERS.”

What the hell was with Mikey? Too much caffeine? Joel shook his head and after a couple of minutes, rolled out of bed and headed towards the shower. Scalding hot water would wake him up soon enough.

There was a slow burst of cold as he shucked off his pyjamas and lumbered into the shower cubicle. He shivered until the heat tumbled out properly and started to warm him up. He couldn’t shake off his thoughts about Nathan though.

Ah, Nathan: his ex, and the world’s greatest idiot. Childish, but it was part of why he avoided coming home to Toronto. There were a lot of memories, a lot of stolen weekends, and it would be easier if he could just block them all out.

Hot water wasn’t really helping.

About ten minutes later, he switched off the shower and stumbled back into the cold and travel wrinkled clothes. Not his first choice, but apparently his kid brother needed him, and he really needed to block out Nathan. But first there would be coffee and Cheerios.


Previous Chapter: Chapter 2: fake star

Index

Next Chapter: Chapter 4: When Tomorrow Comes

 


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